Teach Learn Med. 2022 Aug 10:1-12. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2022.2107528. Online ahead of print.
Problem: High-quality communication improves patient satisfaction and clinical outcomes, yet formal communication training in residency is often minimal. Many studies on empathic communication show mixed results and are often hindered and skewed by brief study lengths, insufficiently and ambiguously defined concepts, and limited methods for objective measurements. Intervention: The FAN Curriculum is a unique communication curriculum, based on the conceptual frameworks of patient-centered communication, reflective practice, mindfulness, and attunement using the Facilitating Attuned Interactions (FAN) model. The first part of the FAN Curriculum was delivered as a 3-hour interactive workshop involving didactics, group discussion, and role play with pediatric residents. Residents then completed weekly self-reflections, a follow-up one-hour training to reinforce concepts, and five monthly mentor sessions, all emphasizing reflective practice. Context: This longitudinal, mixed-methods study examined the effects of the FAN Curriculum on residents’ empathy levels and ability to communicate with parents in the clinical setting. The study was conducted at two urban, academic, medium-sized pediatric residency programs in Chicago between October 2016 and November 2017. First- and second-year pediatric residents whose continuity clinic site was located at their home institution participated. Residents received training in the use of the FAN Communication Tool using a delayed-start crossover study design. Impact: At five time points, residents and parents completed instruments validated for measuring physician empathy and mindfulness. Post-study interviews were conducted for one institution’s residents and mentors and were evaluated using open and focused coding. Participants (n = 23) demonstrated a high degree of use of the FAN Communication Tool six months post-training and a significant rise in self-reported comfort with four of five FAN core processes. One parent-completed survey (Consultation and Relational Empathy, CARE) showed a statistically significant rise of 3.26% in resident relational empathy and collaboration after training (p = 0.02). In qualitative analysis of interviews, residents and mentors found the FAN Communication Tool beneficial, making clinic visits more efficient and collaborative. Both groups noted improvement in the residents’ relationship-building skills; residents were able to use enhanced communication skills to better approach challenging encounters and work through parent concerns. Lessons Learned: Family-centered communication training can improve physician-perceived empathy and mindfulness. Effective communication for pediatric residents incorporates an empathic approach, and introduction to this formal curriculum supported their growth in connecting and engaging with children and parents. The FAN Curriculum may provide a useful method for improving resident communication skills with a positive impact on pediatricians’ collaboration with patients and families.